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The Power of Gossip - Chapter 10

 Title: The Power of Gossip
Rating: T
SummaryIn Tezuka’s defence, it had been a moment of panic at the end of a very stressful day. Now everyone thinks he and Ryoma are dating.
Author’s Notes:  Never thought I'd write some of this, but it's turning out to be fun.

Chapter One - One White Lie
Chapter Two - This Is How Rumours Get Started
Chapter Three - Dropping Pennies
Chapter Four - Resisting the Forces of Chance
Chapter Five - Over-thinking Things
Chapter Six - Discussing Rumours
Chapter Seven - Reading Between the Lines
Chapter Eight - Outside the Comfort Zone
Chapter Nine - Realising the Obvious

The Power of Gossip
Chapter 10 – Resisting Temptation
By Sinnatious
Needless to say, Tezuka didn’t sleep well that night. It was sort of hard to relax when you were so conscious of the person sharing the bed with you. In his effort to maintain what he felt to be a modest distance, he practically fell off the edge. And it didn’t help he spent a great deal of the night coming terms with the fact that not only was he gay – though that personal revelation didn’t cause him as much turmoil as he expected it would, perhaps having become used to the idea after the endless insinuations made by his friends and the media – but that he had a crush on Echizen of all people.
Then when he did finally sleep, he had those dreams again. And woke up in the centre of the bed with one of Echizen’s arms slung over his side anyway. 
The sun wasn’t even up, but he got up to have a cold shower immediately. It was a fine time for his mostly dormant hormones to suddenly become active. 
A long early morning jog calmed him enough to manage to behave normally at breakfast with everyone, even though Inui immediately noted a five percent drop in his accuracy when he ran through some drills at the tennis court later. Echizen had smirked, muttering something about not getting careless. Tezuka couldn’t bring himself to reply. 
They did some drills together before the elder pro used his ringing phone on the sidelines as a reason to excuse himself – it was just his coach asking a question to resolve a potential scheduling conflict. After that, he settled himself in the stands, just watching. 
The young tennis player had suddenly found himself hyper-aware of his companion after his little personal epiphany. Certainly he'd always paid attention to Echizen before, able to remember in great detail their many conversations and encounters over the years, but that focus had both sharpened and shifted remarkably since the whole debacle had unfolded. The idea had been planted firmly in his head, now, and the tennis star couldn't help his eyes following the sinuous grace of Ryoma's movements around the court, suddenly no longer analysing strategy or trajectories but instead inspecting the curve of the back of the youth's neck, the slight parting of his lips as he drew breath and the way the tufts of green-black hair poking out from under his cap shone as they caught the sunlight.

It was torturous. Instinctively, he railed against his traitorous thoughts - Echizen was a friend now, but a large part of him still felt as though he were a twelve-year old under his care as team captain, rather than a nineteen year-old rival on the professional circuit. They were comrades, and these thoughts felt like a violation of the easy trust that had developed between them. What would Echizen think if he knew that his level-headed former captain had suddenly started indulging in decidedly risqué fantasies involving him?

Even as he resisted, though, trying to shake the images from his mind and tear his eyes away, Tezuka had to admit that it was fighting a losing battle. As practiced as he was at denying his hormones, the urges were already so strong that he was worried that he might forget himself and say or do something to give it all away. What was even worse was that they still had over a week of sharing a room – and more importantly, a bed - left.

Tezuka was almost scared. Emotions weren't something he ever really had to deal with. His world was ruled by logic and level-headed reasoning, almost as much as Inui's was. He didn't like the way his emotions were suddenly prompting him to do things he'd never even pictured himself doing before, but at the same time felt powerless to stop it. What could he do? The only option to make it go away was to avoid Echizen entirely, and not only was that currently impossible, he really didn't want to. Worse, if he didn't sort this issue out somehow, it would affect him when they next played tennis.
Taking a deep breath, he centred his focus. He’d been panicking too much lately, and it was clouding his judgement. What did he want?
That was easy. Echizen. There was no point denying it – as it was, it felt like he’d been denying it for long enough.
So the real question then, was – what did Echizen want?
That was the real clincher, wasn’t it? Remarkably, suddenly he wasn’t even remotely interested in dissuading his friends’ fraudulent beliefs in a non-existent relationship, but ironically was looking for a way to make those beliefs come true. 
Was it impossible? Echizen hadn’t treated him at all differently throughout this whole debacle, but then, Oishi had pointed out already that the other pro treated him differently to everybody else. Dare he hope…?
It wouldn’t be right to assume, though. His companion just seemed so innocent sometimes – Tezuka didn’t think he’d once heard a dirty joke come from the other boy’s mouth, despite the filth that seemed to pour from his father’s in any of the few instances he’d been within earshot of the elder Echizen. Even if he tried to flirt – though it was hard to picture himself doing so - as some sort of means of harmlessly gauging interest, every scenario he imagined with Echizen seemed to result in a baffled stare or a deadpan ‘mada mada da ne’. Needless to say, he wasn’t eager to try any of them out. 
So that left him in this awkward limbo, where he was relatively certain of his own burgeoning feelings, but unwilling to risk losing it all on a gamble. And worse, his temptation was being dangled endlessly in front of his face. His only solace was that Fuji had apparently already had his fun and had left him alone ever since his cryptic comments the day before. Perhaps his friend had decided that he’d done enough damage for the time being. Turning someone’s entire world upside-down in the space of a day was a pretty amazing feat, after all.
He shook himself and returned to the hotel, intent on holing up with a book for the afternoon – he couldn’t be expected to concentrate on tennis with Echizen’s ‘cute grunts’ – as Fuji had so vividly described – ringing in his ears. At least there, he ought to be able to think in peace. 
Most of the afternoon was spent reading books or pretending to read books while thinking about Echizen. Eventually, it grew close to dinner, and Tezuka hastily left the room, knowing that his roommate would coming back to change. His guess proved right when he encountered the teen in the hallway.
“Coming to dinner buchou?” the younger pro asked as he fished for his card key.
“Yes. I’ll see you down in the lobby with everyone else later,” Tezuka tonelessly replied, sliding past and trying not to react when the back of his hand brushed Echizen’s arm. 
He already had it bad. The next week and a half was going to be agony!
The elevator stopped two floors down, and Inui stepped in with him. “Ah, Tezuka, I was hoping to run into you.”
“Inui,” he greeted cordially. “What for?”
“Well, I did say that it would be a few weeks before I took over as Echizen’s manager, but I was hoping that you might be able to answer some questions…”
“You’d be better off asking Echizen himself,” he interrupted.
That momentarily stymied the data-gatherer. Tezuka saw him blink behind those thick glasses. “Ah, of course.” He flipped his notebook open – a smaller, less conspicuous spiral pad he usually used when they were going out in public – and drew a pen from his pocket. “Echizen and Tezuka insist on maintaining professional independence. Inconvenient, but realistic, given your on-court rivalry…”
Tezuka tuned him out. He was hardly bothered by his friends’ misconceptions anymore – the lie had been repeated to him so frequently that it was started to feel true. 
“Inui,” he asked suddenly, as they sat on the couches in the hotel’s lobby. “How do you tell if someone is interested in you?”
That temporarily stayed the scribble of pen on paper. “Excuse me, Tezuka?”
“You know… romantically,” he expanded, only vaguely aware of how incredibly left-fielded his query must have seemed.
Indeed, it did briefly stump the data-gatherer. “Why do you ask? Are you having problems with someone?”
“Something like that,” was the vague reply.
“Does Echizen know?”
Echizen was the problem. “No.” 
Brow furrowed, Inui mulled over that for a moment, before muttering, “Probability of Tezuka cheating on Echizen is supposed to only be-”
“There’s no cheating,” he interrupted. “It’s more of a… it’s the sort of situation where if I confront someone on it wrongly it could create a misunderstanding.”
“Oh. Very well then.” Inui seemed to have been convinced by that – likely assuming that there was a third party Tezuka was worried about leading on. “This individual… what sort of temperament do they have?”
He could hardly describe Echizen’s temperament without giving it all away. “Well, they’re not very expressive,” he hedged, trying to be vague so as not to be completely obvious. “Which is where my problem lies.”
“I see. So you’ve already concluded that the regular methods of gauging interest will return dubious results at best,” the data gatherer mused thoughtfully, pen tapping his chin. “And you cannot ask directly… how do they react when you’re with Echizen? Or does this party not know about that relationship?”
“They’ve never been in contact,” Tezuka lied. That one untruth three weeks ago had led to him telling the most lies he’d ever told in his life. 
“Hmm, that rules out one method… has this person ever given you any gifts?”
“You mean, like flowers?”
“If it were flowers, you wouldn’t need to ask about it,” Inui replied, clearly amused. “Even for a normal occasion, like your birthday or Christmas.” Then muttered under his breath, “This would be so much easier if there was just a name…”
Tezuka pretended not to hear. “Yes, I’ve received birthday and Christmas presents from them.” During school years, all of the regulars tended to pitch in together to get each other gifts, but once they’d left gift-giving had become an individual affair.
“How expensive were the gifts, then? Generally, one will not go beyond a certain measure of expense for merely friendly gifts, but if it’s beyond that…”
“Expensive, no, they’ve never been…” Well, there had been that limited edition book for his last birthday, but that was just a one-off, and besides, neither of them were even remotely hurting for money. Surely using expense as a scale wasn’t quite as applicable on their finances… Then again, the year before Echizen had given him that autographed tennis ball. Even if it hadn’t been expensive, the trouble the other pro must have gone to, getting those signatures himself from such reclusive, retired players…
“That’s just one way, of course.” Inui’s voice cleaved through his tumultuous thoughts like a knife. “Have they-”
“Hoi hoi!” A familiar red head bounded onto the scene, dragging his doubles partner with him. “Tezuka and Inui are early!”
“Kikumaru, Oishi,” Inui greeted, abandoning their conversation. “How did your practice this afternoon go? Are you ready for the preliminaries this weekend?”
“We still have another day or two to practice, but I think we should be okay,” Oishi said with a smile. Given that the chronic worrier was that confident, the doubles players must have been on top of their game indeed. 
Tezuka allowed himself to sink back into the couch while the others chatted, mulling over Inui's words.  He would have liked to pick the data-gatherer's brain a little longer, but at the same time was relieved that the conversation had been conveniently interrupted to save his own embarrassment.  Could he reliably draw that much meaning from just a few gestures?  And did that standard even apply to Echizen, who had repeatedly displayed a stubborn ignorance of those gestures when applied to himself from other third parties?  Tezuka had witnessed plenty of hopeful girls' frustrations with the aloof tennis pro throughout their long acquaintance - the first being Coach Ryuuzaki's granddaughter.  It gave him some small measure of hope, at least, but not enough to dare act upon it.  Maybe he would have taken the chance if Echizen were openly gay.  But THAT was hardly a question he could just ask out of the blue. Why did the object of his newfound affections have to fall so far outside of the realm of normalcy? 
For the time being, he’d just have to control himself, he decided. His revelation was little more than a day or so old, and even though it felt as though it had been a lot longer than that – almost as though he should have had that epiphany years ago - he knew he could be patient. His coach regularly told him that his patience and self-control were among his best qualities. Even if his hormones had suddenly decided to act up, he was an adult and could handle it until the best course of action regarding the situation revealed itself. Getting so worked up about it now was premature.

Most of the others had filtered into the lobby as he sat there, stuck in his thoughts - Momo and Kaido were already getting into an argument on the other side of the room, which Taka was meekly trying to defuse.

"Hmm, where's Echizen?" Fuji asked, the latest to arrive.  "He's not with you, Tezuka?"

"I came down early.  He was in the bathroom when I left," Tezuka replied neutrally, roused from his introspection.  Come to think of it, it was taking the nineteen-year-old a long time to come downstairs.  He'd left the room well over half an hour ago now.

"Mou, I wish Ochibi would hurry up! I’m hungry!" Eiji complained, hopping on one foot.  Never mind that it made him look like a high schooler all over again.  The people at the front desk didn't even bat an eyelid at their antics after the first few days of it.

"Maybe you should go check what's taking him so long, Tezuka?" Fuji suggested with a slight smile on his face.

He held out the room key.  "By all means, feel free to go ahead."  Wait, giving Fuji unfettered access to the room would be cruel to Echizen.  "Actually, never mind, I'll go."

The others kept talking amongst themselves as Tezuka headed back to the elevators.  It was only halfway to their floor that the idea of giving the card to Momoshiro instead occurred to him.  Too late.

With a heavy sigh, he slid the card key in the door and swung it open.  The lights were still on, but there was no sign of the other tennis pro in the room.  Perhaps they'd missed each other on the way? It would be just like Echizen to forget to turn off the lights.

Wait, the bathroom door was closed.  Tezuka knocked on it once, and didn't receive a reply.  Surprised to find it unlocked, he opened it and almost groaned when he saw that Echizen had fallen asleep in the tub again.

"Echizen, wake up.  Everyone's waiting," he called.  The teen didn't stir.  Swallowing harshly, Tezuka stepped into the bathroom.  At least now he knew why this had bothered him so much last time.

He leant down, reaching out with the intention of shaking the sleeping tennis player awake.  His hand froze a few centimetres from the creamy skin, though, and his eyes wandered over the exposed collarbone almost of their own accord.  Immediately scolding himself, he forced his eyes to Echizen's face to prevent his gaze straying lower - but that too proved to be a mistake.  Echizen's lips were moist and slightly parted, and his cheeks were dusted pink from the hot bath, giving him a flushed look that even the most innocent of the imaginations wouldn't be able to resist.

It would be so easy to take advantage of him like this.  So easy to let his eyes wander where they shouldn't, let his hand slide down that exposed chest, let his lips...

Tezuka jerked back, suddenly realising how close he'd drawn in.  What was WRONG with him?  He had better control of his hormones than that!  He grabbed the other tennis pro's shoulder and shook it more roughly than he'd intended, trying to ignore the feeling of the warm flesh beneath his fingers.  "Echizen!"

This time, the other tennis pro stirred, eyelashes fluttering briefly before half-lidded eyes sleepily found him.  "Buchou?"

"You fell asleep in the tub again.  Hurry up - the others are waiting."

"Right, sorry."  Tezuka didn't stay to hear anything else, waiting only long enough to confirm that the other teen was awake before whisking out of bathroom and closing the door behind him, slumping into the nearest chair and trying to get his breath back.

This was quickly becoming torture.  Not even twenty minutes ago Tezuka had been priding himself on his control and patience, and now....

Echizen emerged from the bathroom a minute later, still in the process of buttoning up his shirt.  "Thanks for waking me up."  He just nodded in response.  The other tennis pro looked at him curiously as he tugged on his shoes.  "Are you alright, buchou?  You're looking sort of pale." Of course he was. 
It’s all your fault.
“Tell the others to go ahead,” he found himself saying in a slightly strangled voice. “I’ve developed a bit of a headache.” There was no way he’d be able to handle being in Echizen’s presence for the rest of the night after THAT.
“Do you need some aspirin?” Echizen asked, already moving towards the kitchenette.
“No, I’ve already taken some,” he lied. Lying had become far too easy over the past few weeks. “Have a nice evening.”
“Okay then. Are you sure you don’t want me to-”
“No!” Tezuka all but barked out. Why couldn’t Echizen just take the hint and get out already? “It’s- I don’t wish to ruin the evening for anyone else. Please, go and enjoy yourselves.”
“If you say so,” Echizen said doubtfully, tying up his shoes. The nineteen-year-old sounded a little disappointed, but he was probably just imagining it. “See you later, Buchou.”
Tezuka waited for several minutes after Echizen had left to make certain the others wouldn’t be coming up to the room, then hurried into the bathroom and stepped under the shower, turning the cold water on full blast.
At this rate, he’d be getting pneumonia.


( 8 comments — Leave a comment )
Oct. 3rd, 2007 11:31 am (UTC)
In his effort to maintain what he felt to be a modest distance, he practically fell off the edge.

I. Ugh. HAPPY. HAPPYOh</i>, he's absolutely gorgeous, the dork.

I burst out laughing. With Inui. INUI. GOD. HE HAS NO ROMANTIC BONE AT ALL. But his data. Ahaha. ♥ He's shiny, as always. And so is Fuji.

Oh. I'm so happy now. You know that face? 8->? I really, really, want to be making that face at you all day long. And them. And Tezuka. And Ryoma. Gosh. I reallyreallyreally don't know what else to say besides I just love this to pieces. They're so gorgeous. And Tezuka losing control with just a sight of Ryoma in the tub, which is understandable indeed else I might think there's something wrong with his brain.

But. kijgadfh. Just ♥♥♥

And and and. How many chapters do you imagine this fic to be? Because I must plan out my school life and make room for this. *_____*
Oct. 3rd, 2007 11:32 am (UTC)
I absolutely hate it when I screw up html. Fail. -___-;
Oct. 3rd, 2007 11:39 am (UTC)
At least you can actually use HTML, which is more than what I can do (which is pretty shameful given the amount of quasi-coding I wind up doing at work). So colour me impressed!

14 chapters all up by the looks of it. So, gosh, not that long left to go now at all.
Oct. 3rd, 2007 11:45 am (UTC)
Hee. It gets easier after a while t least. :D Just that I always tend to think too fast when I do things. |D

jdfhgkldfjkjfdghkfhsfgh kalf ♥ That's about two weeks and it shall be finished. *feeling torn*
Oct. 3rd, 2007 12:12 pm (UTC)
Oct. 4th, 2007 12:25 am (UTC)
Hey Sin (still blame Kaori ^^)

I don’t have much time and I was actually hoping that you would update today. Your fic is probably the only thing that I watch on my friends page right now as I am swamped by school work. *Sigh*

Lovely chapter once again and God I just love Tezuka finally admitting that he was guy. Hahaha ! And his hesitation over Ryoma… Priceless ! I love your Inui… just love him and his precious datas. Fuji didn’t make such an appearance, ne ? And the bath ? Why oh why didn’t you give in the temptation Tezuka ? I bet that Ryoma would just love to wake up with your lips on his. *Swoon* I’m not good at HTML… actually, I don’t really know that much so as to compensate, here is a little crack :

“Nya ? Tezuka has a crush on someone else ? OISHIIIIIIIII, did you hear ? But what about Ochibi ? Nya Tezukaaaaaaaaaaaaa !”

Tezuka sighed as he watched Kikumaru jumping from Oishi’s back to come in front of his face. He glared at Inui who wasn’t even affected as he was writing in his precious green notebook again. Upon feeling a constant uncomfortable itching at the back of his neck and after verifying in his blue notebook that he did not have anything to cause this ache, he turned to see that Tezuka giving him a glare. He sends a cheap grin to him which only severed the glare. It seems that he would be running laps for the rest of their vacation. It was not intentional that the rest of the team found out about Tezuka and his conversation. He only noted their conversation in his orange notebook and Eiji accidentally found out about it. And of course, through Eiji and Momo’s mouth, it came as a escalade of rumors and drama. Inui noted that Fuji was beside a red faced Taka. Fuji seems to enjoy the entire scene caused by Eiji’s jumping and Momo’s and Kaidoh’s yell. It was not a surprise that Fuji was enjoying the sight in front of him, but looking at his yellow notebook, he had a graph that indicate that Fuji knows more than the rest of the team. The probability was small, but with experience, Inui could not put aside any insignificant details concerning Fuji. Momoshiro and Kaidoh were fighting which was nothing unusual nor was Eiji’s behaviour. Oishi were red and trying to calm his doubles partner which was some kind of distraction for Oishi. And Echizen ? He had a displeased growl on his face, but he was trying to hide it. Inui underlined the word ‘trying’ in his green notebook.

“Eiji, calm down. I’m sure that you misread Inui’s book. Tezuka would never cheat on Echizen.” Oishi, in motherhen mode, tried to calm Eiji which was a humongous task on its own. But in the same time, he was trying to figure out what was going on with Tezuka’s relationship.

“But Oishi, nya ! Tezuka received flowers ! Red roses too !”

And Fuji, as always, liked to flame the already burning fire. “Saa, the one that loves to give red roses would be Atobe.”

And the flaming of the flame began with Eiji’s outburst. “ATOBE, NYAAAAAAAAAAA ?” Eiji was shocked to say the least. Even Momo and Kaidoh stopped their fighting for a second to glance at their buchou. Inui noted in his green notebook that if their eyeballs were out by 12% more, then their eyes would fall out on the ground, which he noted were 67% dirtied.

Ryoma strolled to Tezuka’s side keeping his growling face.

“Are you seeing the monkey king, buchou ?” Ryoma murmured at Tezuka, but with Inui’s hearing, trained with years and years of spying, he could note what Ryoma said to Tezuka.

Tezuka looked at the golden eyes of his prodigy, and answered with a curt “No”.

Ryoma, satisfied with the answer, put his usual ‘I don’t care’ face back on.

Sorry Sin, but this will have to stop here. I was also thinking about putting Tezuka on the spot and saying ‘I’m lusting after Ryoma and no one else’ and then have Ryoma say ‘I’m gay too buchou.’, but I really don’t have time. It will have to wait for the next time I guess. Gotta go back to my studying.

Mimi ♥
Oct. 4th, 2007 11:11 am (UTC)
Ha ha, AWESOME. You should really copy-paste these impromptu writings and put it up as your own drabble! In the meantime, though, I LOVE IT. Must... resist... temptation... some of these alternative scenarios are so fun to think about.

Sorry to hear study is encoraching on your life in a serious way! Real bummer. And it's only October! Hate to see what end of Semester must be like. We need electronic study charms for you or something. Actually, there seem to be a few people who would benefit.

Inui is so very much fun to write. At least next update is on the weekend, hey? ♥
Oct. 4th, 2007 10:07 am (UTC)
I lost track or how many times I told you already but I lovelovelove this!

And we're slowly getting hints to what Ryoma is feeling, even if very indirectly.
I found myself thinking 'Poor puppy!' after Tezuka barked at him to go out and leave him alone, practically. Aww.
Buchou will end up hurting his feelings without meaning to, ne? :P
( 8 comments — Leave a comment )